Carelessly Whispering

In just under 12 hours I will be at the Nighthawk in Slater, Iowa toeing the line at this year’s Bike Iowa Gent’s Race as part of team “Careless Whispers.” It was a gloomy day all around today and I think everyone could use the camaraderie, the smiles, and the miles.  We have been riding this together every year since the first.  I’m looking forward to seeing Bob, GT, Fuller, Kathy (who is filling in for the MIA D-corn this year), the the 63 other teams of 5 who will be dusting it up out on the rock roads.  61.something miles of fun!  This isn’t like the torture that is CIRREM, it’s a friendly race that caters to everyone from beginners to seasoned rock riders.

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I am about as prepared as I could be, hydrated, fed, packed, bike dialed, and ready for some needed rest after a stressful day of stressing the fuck out. This will be my first official race as a Vegan, I’ve packed food accordingly as I am certain the venue has nothing that I can eat. It’s a bummer, kind of, as I do like the food at the Nighthawk when I’m on the road.  I’m also ditching the customary Four Loko for some Scratch Labs powder.  Big changes, I’m excited to see how I fare after the dietary changes and weight loss. I’m most excited to see my team mates, this is the one time every year we are guaranteed to be together all at once.

See you in Slater!

CNB

Loss Of A Legend: Mike Hall

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Mike Hall tucked in on the IPWR. Photo Credit: Facebook

Mike Hall is a legend in cycling. In his relatively short time at the forefront of ultra-endurance racing he has racked up wins/records in 24-hour mountain bike races, the Trans-Am Bike Race, World Cycle Race , Tour Divide, and founded the Trans-Continental Race in Europe. In addition to his racing, Mike participated in fundraising efforts for charity Newborns Vietnam. Mike was on his way to a second place finish behind three time Trans-Con Winner Kristof Allegaert in the inaugural Indian Pacific Wheel Race crossing Southern Australia when he was tragically killed by a motorist on March 31st, 2017. The collision occurred on the Monaro Highway on the outskirts of Canberra at approximately 6:20am.

This is a great loss of a true Ultra Champion. Rest in peace, Mr. Hall.

Sam, CNB

 

A Smashing Good Ride Report

Sometimes you have a moment that I like to call a “Re-Piphany.” This is the moment that you remember a sudden, insightful vision that struck you in the past.  A few years ago I had this original occurrence while riding out on the gravel, cruising down a hill at dusk at a speed that was far overreaching my poor eyesight’s ability to gauge the road surface stability.  A not-so-small patch of loose rock in an odd section of the road almost took me down, and in the adrenaline rush after barely keeping the bike upright it came to me. I should probably get contacts or prescription riding shades.  Now that I’m a little more seasoned at reading the roads (also slower), it’s rare to have such a run in. Until yesterday when it happened again.

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A rare photo of me with the old trusty Peugeot, Circa 2009

Yesterday I was doing an in-town ride to get a few miles in, and basically to revisit all of the roads I used to travel when all I had was an old Peugeot fixie that I rode everywhere. I was with the stoker at Campbell’s Nutrition the other day and had a longing to relive those old days of shopping by bike there and at New City Market (RIP), cruising the streets on the old pearl white and orange beast, stopping for beers along the way, filling my messenger bag up with vital veggies for the week’s meals. It was powerful, but this is not the Re-Piphany I speak of. So, I decided I would take the gravel bike around my old stomping grounds. It’s completely over the top as a commuter/city bike, but since that is the bike I am currently training to use for this years’ events, that’s what I’m riding at all times.  Towards the end of my loop I had come through Water Works, then decided to take the MLK extension to the EV instead of my normal route behind Gray’s Lake.  Descending down east from the MLK/Fleur bridge, I picked up speed and was looking down at my computer to check said speed, crossed the first road then looked up to see that I was bearing down on a tall, fresh curb. “What in fresh curb hell is this?” I managed to get the Bird’s front wheel up, but the rear slammed into the concrete and after a yard or so I heard that familiar hissing and felt that rear end squirm. FLAT TIME! I was cold, as the temps were a little cooler than I had anticipated (I also like training underdressed, but I don’t factor in stopping and getting chilled during mechanicals. Noted.), and just wanted to get home for some food.

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A proper blowout, indeed.

One of my main concerns, aside from eating all the food, was that I was rolling on carbon hoops.  I was completely convinced that upon inspecting the rim that there would be a crack or break. I mean, I’m at the top end of the weight limit for almost every bike part known to humankind, and a direct hit at that velocity with the momentum created by my mass, that’s the science of fucking up a good wheel.  Wheel inspection complete, all was surprisingly well. Thank you Whisky Parts Co for making a literal bomb-proof carbon hoop, and Ed & Jen at Beaverdale Bikes for a rock solid wheel build. DANG. I had a road tube in the pack, that was better than the MTB tube I expected to encounter, as I don’t remember repacking this particular kit from the Lynskey SS MTB trial run of Ought 16, I made that work and was up and rolling in just a few short minutes.  Rolling back to the house, back to food, back to the kittens, and back to re-tube that rear wheel with the correct size rubber.

So… the moment I hit that curb it struck me loudly for the second time, I really need to get some better vision going for the roads ahead. When I looked up I had plenty of time to react, but I couldn’t see that the curb was high now.  It had been reconstructed recently, so I thought that it was changed (it wasn’t changed at all, btw). You could also argue that I should maybe keep my head up and pay better attention when cycling at higher speeds.

Maybe.

Sam, CNB

CIRREM MIC DROP

You’ve all had the chance to read about my dropping out of CIRREM at the checkpoint, just 20 miles before the finish. You’ve also had a chance to read about my health/weight issues and how that is going.  What you HAVEN’T seen is the super classy video of me dropping out of the race that beautiful Saturday. Without further ado, here is the unedited video of yours truly (at about 310+ lbs) dropping out of a race at mile 45. Enjoy.

Sam, CNB

The (Broken) Promise Of Spring

Today I’m going to do a really typical Midwesterner thing and bitch about the weather.  I’ve had it with the ups and downs of Iowa climate, Monday it was in the 60’s, yesterday it snowed but got to the low 50’s, it’s goddamn 30 right now.  Preparing to ride in this shit is very frustrating. Our winter here was pretty mild, too mild, and afforded some nice long days in the saddle. It was pretty much road bike weather all winter. I used my FATBIKE sparingly, and generally just when I was too lazy to find gloves as I have pogies on the bars. There was no real snowfall this winter in my neck of the woods. So, unfortunately I had to get everywhere much faster, total bummer.

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Road Biking in February. WHERE’S MY SNOW??

My body is no longer acclimated to the “Winter Temperature Scale,” that thing that makes you comfortable wearing shorts towards the end of winter in temperatures that would have you wearing a base layer in the fall.  I’m not sure where or when this happened, I generally train/ride underdressed so I can carry less layers on me or on the bike. As a rule, if it’s not cold enough to cause physical damage to your skin, you’ll live. I’m also built like a goddamn bear, so I suppose that it’s easier for me to just “stay warm”

Ok, I’m making no real point here. Yes, spring weather is unpredictable. Yes, it’s frustrating. I’m also looking directly at the temperature, which hasn’t changed in a few hours. It’s 8:30 am. Maybe I should just shut ‘er down and get on a bike and ride. Sounds like a good plan.  Wait, I need to go to the grocery store. Later. Thanks for humoring me by reading this today.

Sam, CNB

Favorites: J-Paks GravelPak

I’ve been a frame bag user for quite some time, using Revelate full frame and Tangle bags on my gravel/fat/mountain rigs, and a sweet Porcelain Rocket custom frame bag (thanks to my deer friend Zen Biking), on my Ti Fargo. I’m a big fan of these convenient packs, but I have one problem. I’m a pack rat and my frame bags end up looking like something out of “Hoarders, Bike Edition.” The “map compartment” side is usually stocked with old cue cards from races past, random keys or mud scraping devices (aka ti tent stakes), licorice ropes, batteries, empty gel packs, and the main compartments are a collection of mini pumps, ancient granola bars, lighters, expired gel packs, gas station trinkets, a goddamn red clown nose (???), crushed beer cans, and it just goes from there.  Basically, my frame bags become a rolling landfill. Pretty rad.

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The J-Paks Gravel Pak on my Salsa Warbird Carbon Gravel Rig Of Doom

Enter my new favorite bike thing: the GravelPak from J-Paks. I picked one of these up a few months back, and it has become my go to for bringing along anything I need on a ride. It’s similar in shape to the ubiquitous seat packs you see on most bikepacking rigs, but it’s smaller and less unwieldy than it’s larger brethren.  There is enough space for a tool kit, phone charger, base layers/jacket, extra gloves/hat (I always carry spares, especially in the cooler months. I like to change out these items about half way through a ride), some food items, maybe even an extra water bottle or can of beer if you feel so inclined without taking up frame space, and you hardly notice the seat pack. Somehow the GravelPak also lends itself to repacking and keeping things organized, and since it is a roll-closure and not something you simply unzip and toss crap in, you are less likely to pack rat away all of those cool (useless) gas station finds.

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GravelPaks in the not so wild. Image ripped off from jpaks.com

The Gravel Pak is great for switching between bikes, its two clipped straps for the seat rails and one very secure velcro strap around the seat post can be easily popped/undone and moved to whatever steed you are riding today. You can have your “winter kit” on hand and move it between your gravel rig, fat bike, whatever bike, and with so much less hassle than undoing 400 velcro straps you find on frame bags.  You can use a regular seat pack for things like this, but the J-Pak bag is like the “Baby Bear’s Porridge” of short to medium range riding. It’s just the right size.

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Hey! Hooman! Paws off my #$%&ing porridge!

Due to the ever changing Iowa winter weather, I have been using this bag between my road bike, my gravel bike, a single speed, and my trusty Mukluk with no problems at all. It’s a sturdy build that shows no signs of wear after over 500 miles of mixed use and many bike swaps. I’m looking forward to a good spring of many more miles with this bad lad, and to maybe picking up a few of J-Paks other offerings from their J-Paks Shop.

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J-Paks GravelPak on my trusty road bike outside Jamaica, IA

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And here it is on the trusty Mukluk. (Thanks, DMPL, for gently shoveling around my steed)

Yeah, that’s it. No crazy stories, just a solid piece of kit that will keep you organized in your travels, and transfers easily between bikes.  Kudos, J-Paks. Thank you for the righteous gear.

Sam, CNB

Less Breathless

As the tens of you who have been reading along here know, I have recently hit a brick wall with my health.  I had been eating like a huge asshole, and I do mean huge, to the point where not even riding was helping out. I was the heaviest that I’ve even been in my life, a full 70 lbs more than when I was in “racing shape,” and I felt it.  My joints ached, my hips were really unhappy on long rides, I would get out of breath putting on my cycling shoes, and I realized I had been lying to myself about what was going on with my health.  It was time for a change.

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I’ve gone from milkshakes to smoothies.

This week I have hit another milestone. I put my Sidis on without having to gasp for air. This may not seem like something to brag about, but in my 18″ of space it is a reason to celebrate.  When I weighed in yesterday, I had gone from 302.8 to 288.2 lbs in one week. There was a full week prior to my initial weigh in that was undocumented, I would say that based on losing 14+ in the past week, my actual weight at the start was closer to 310-315 lbs. (my poor wheels). I’ve dropped about my first 20, and I am already feeling great. My shirts are fitting better, my mood is better, and I don’t feel as sluggish on the bike. I’m excited, as the weight loss has been from simply changing my diet and getting adjusted to eating Vegan again. I haven’t joined a gym, I have actually been riding less due to being fairly busy, I simply cut out meat, dairy, cheese, etc. This wasn’t an abrupt change, I had been planning this and purging my pantry and fridge for two months, and I have spent a few years eating Vegan in the past, so the groundwork was laid.  I just needed motivation like failing at a bike race that by all means I should have been able to finish.

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Tofu Scramble, Spinach, Tater Crowns, Home Made Vegan Biscuits w/Fig Preserves. Breakfast of Champions.

The Stoker is pleased that I’ve decided to actually look out for my health instead of plowing through life expecting things to just be ok, even though things were most decidedly NOT ok. We are looking forward to a summer of cycling, I’ve decided to cut back my “race” schedule a bit and focus on using 2017 as a recovery year from the past few years of just letting myself go.  It’s time to rebuild, have fun, and get things going the right direction again.

Sam, CNB